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Alternative forms[edit]

  • wooly (chiefly used in the US, but less common than woolly even there)


  • IPA(key): /ˈwʊli/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʊli

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English wolly, equivalent to wool +‎ -y. Cognate with Saterland Frisian wullich (woolly), Dutch wollig (woolly), German wohlig (woolly), Swedish ullig (woolly).


woolly (comparative woollier, superlative woolliest)

  1. Made of wool.
    • 1969, Georges Perec, Gilbert Adair (translator), A Void:
      Sporting a woolly cardigan with four buttons on top of an Oxford smock without a collar, our man has a faintly folksy look about him, calling to mind a zingaro or a gypsy, a carny or a Mongol, but also (switching to a wholly distinct mythology and iconography) a hippy strumming his guitar in a barroom in Haight-Ashbury or at Big Sur or in Katmandu.
    Put on a woolly jumper and turn down the thermostat.
  2. Having a thick, soft texture, as if made of wool.
    woolly hair
    There was nothing left in the fruit bowl but a brown banana and a couple of woolly pears.
    • 1966, Nina Simone (lyrics and music), “Four Women”, in Wild Is the Wind:
      My skin is black / My arms are long / My hair is woolly / My back is strong
  3. (figuratively, of thinking, principles, etc.) Based on emotions rather than logic.
    That's the sort of woolly thinking that causes wars to start.
  4. (figuratively) Unclear, fuzzy, hazy, cloudy.
  5. (obsolete) Clothed in wool.
Derived terms[edit]


woolly (plural woollies)

  1. (informal) A sweater or similar garment made of wool.
    • 1965, James Holledge, What Makes a Call Girl?, London: Horwitz Publications, page 82:
      `I've got a rotten cold and I'm not taking my woollies off until it's better.'
    • 1987, Kerry Cue, Hang On To Your Horses Doovers, page 83:
      Being an innocent Australian abroad in a European winter, I had taken with me every winter woolly I could borrow or squeeze out of friends and associates.
  2. (US, slang) A sheep not yet shorn.
  3. A piece of woolwork.

Etymology 2[edit]

From woolyback.


woolly (plural woollies)

  1. (Liverpudlian slang, derogatory) A woolly back; someone from the area around Liverpool, not from Liverpool itself.